By an Unknown Soldier
Editor’s Note: On this day much is said, year in and year out. We bring you this dispatch, written by a soldier, as received, unchanged. No editing could hope to improve upon it.
The Cost of Freedom
1. Every 15th August this great nation of ours celebrates its independence from colonial occupation by the British Empire. It has been over seventy years since we earned our freedom with countless sacrifices and decades of struggle. We revel in our freedom as a nation and society and come 15th August, or 26th January for that matter, beyond a couple of days of the fluttering of the Tricolour on cars and balconies, we forget the fact that it not only took incalculable sacrifices to gain our independence, but that it has taken an equal number of ongoing sacrifices to maintain it day after day, for more than seventy years.
2. The price of independence or freedom is not cheap. It has to be paid everyday by the blood and tears of those who stand guard to protect it. For a soldier freedom is something he has to earn every day, not only for himself but for his family and his nation and everyone in it. For a soldier every day is Independence Day.
3. Freedom for a soldier means much more than it does to others. The inherent feeling of patriotism and nationalism which a soldier is supposed to or rather expected to have is more than just a feeling. A soldier is not just a patriot. He does not see patriotism in merely symbolic or geographic terms; for him it is also in the promoting and defending of our values as a nation.
4. The tenets of independence, as it applies to a nation, i.e. equality, secularism and fraternity, are essential parts of the military culture and are indispensable to a soldier’s life. All soldiers are equal. Caste, creed and colour are left behind when a soldier puts on his uniform. This freedom to be equal is what the soldier fights for and even lays down his life for if the need be such. What hurts a soldier most is when he sees what he fights for everyday, is not what the nation takes pride in. But as the old adage goes “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die!” and so he soldiers on.
5. The difficulty and sacrifices borne by the soldier are borne in equal measure by his loved ones back home. It is not just the day to day strife that one has to go through, but the anxiety of the soldier not returning home is what is most unbearable for his family. Every national flag fluttering in the wind, every military truck that passes by, every patriotic song that plays on the radio reminds the soldier’s loved ones of the cost that has to be paid for being free. Recognizing the cost of freedom every single day is what Independence Day means to a soldier and his family.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
6. They say a nation becomes strong and powerful when it learns to respect its soldiers. As a soldier I say a nation becomes strong and powerful when all its people become soldiers for the nation. When they learn and appreciate what goes into earning independence and then staying independent as a people. Only when they know the cost of freedom and are willing to pay the same, will a nation be strong.
The quote inscribed on the entrance of the famous North Block in Lutyens Delhi conveys it most appropriately
“Liberty will not descend to a people. A people must raise themselves to liberty.
It is a blessing that must be earned before it is enjoyed.”